Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Takes on Ted Cruz's Paris Climate Agreement Comments

President Joe Biden's decision to rejoin the landmark Paris climate agreement has sparked an early conflict between prominent Democratic and Republican lawmakers, with GOP figures resuming the attacks that underpinned Donald Trump's withdrawal from the deal.

Rejoining the Paris agreement was one of Biden's first acts as president and came amid a flurry of executive orders signed hours after his inauguration on Wednesday.

Trump's withdrawal from the 197-nation deal in 2017 was an early example of his preference for "America First" unilateralism and his lack of concern over the catastrophic damage that climate change could inflict on the world. The former president and his allies framed the deal as unfairly punitive on the U.S. and a gift to China.

Sen. Ted Cruz led the Republican charge against the Paris deal on Wednesday, framing Biden's decision to rejoin as a step that would help foreign nations and hurt Americans.

"By rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, President Biden indicates he's more interested in the views of the citizens of Paris than in the jobs of the citizens of Pittsburgh," Cruz wrote on Twitter.

"This agreement will do little to affect the climate and will harm the livelihoods of Americans. I'll continue working with my colleagues to fight for blue-collar workers and to defend America's energy independence," Cruz added.

Cruz's comparison of Paris and Pittsburgh quickly drew derision online, with many pointing out that the name of the agreement is dictated by the city in which it was signed, not by the citizens it is supposed to appeal to.

But Cruz's statement harked back to past Republican arguments that the climate deal represented an American compromise—reducing emissions at the request and to the benefit of foreign nations.

AOC speaks outside the DNC in DC
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. on November 19, 2020. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/Getty

Progressive Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has long been among the Hill's most vocal climate activists, lobbying for a return to the Paris accord and building support for her own Green New Deal.

"Nice tweet Sen. Cruz! Quick question: do you also believe the Geneva Convention was about the views of the citizens of Geneva?" Ocasio-Cortez posted on Twitter. "Asking for everyone who believes US Senators should be competent and not undermine our elections to incite insurrection against the United States."

Ocasio-Cortez was referring to Cruz's role in spreading baseless conspiracy theories that electoral fraud tainted November's presidential election.

The senator is facing calls to step down amid allegations that he helped incite the far-right pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6 in an effort to block the certification of President Biden's victory. One video of rioters inside the Senate chamber during the attack captured some assuring each other that Cruz would support their actions.

Climate activists welcomed Biden's order to rejoin the Paris deal, but critics remain concerned that the agreement does not do enough to address the scale of global warming.

The accord is designed to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial levels—and to work towards limiting the increase to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius).

But there is no enforcement mechanism to make countries deliver on their promises and so far no signatory has reached the required threshold.

The deal's temperature targets have also been dismissed as ineffective. The United Nations Environment Programme has warned that the Paris targets—even if met by all nations—will allow temperatures to rise by 5.7 degrees Fahrenheit (3.2 degrees Celsius) by the end of the century, a result that is predicted to bring catastrophic environmental consequences.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the countries which participate in the Paris Agreement.

U.S. Rejoins Paris Agreement - Statista